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Jamie Lauren On Top Chef-dom

How my life has changed since I started appearing on national television:

Until I got a spot on this season’s Top Chef, my job at Absinthe has always been behind the scenes. For the past year and a half, I’ve been going into work and prepping, cooking, expediting and hand-holding for about 10 to 12 hours a day (on average) before heading home.

Now my job has turned into a front-of-the-house one-woman show. If I dare step out of the kitchen during service, I’m immediately bombarded by people—a difficult thing when managing a line that has close to 30 tickets in the window and I'm trying to coax my staff through our ridiculous dinner rush. But I find it amazing that people want to meet ME (?!). I'm just a girl who can cook, who happens to be on a reality television show, that's still trying to do her job on a daily basis.

I walk out to the floor and can hear the whispers (and we are a loud restaurant!) …"Is that Jamie over there?" "Wait, is that the girl from Top Chef?" "Is Jamie here?" And then it begins. "Table 63 wants to meet you. And when you are done at 63, table 70 wants to meet you, and after that table 44 wants to meet you." It makes doing my job rather difficult, but people are excited, and that excitement is bringing them in to see me and try my food. I mean, what more could a chef ask for, really? It's a good thing I have a couple of great sous chefs that are capable of manning the kitchen when I am out on the floor being "famous".

Being out in public has taken an interesting turn. Case in point: I was walking out of the restaurant the other night on my way home when a girl literally came up to me out of nowhere and threw her arms around me in a huge bear hug, proclaiming her love. Then, at the movies last week with my mom, I was pointed at, about six times. Or try the airport: While stripping down to practically nothing but socks and underwear to get through security, I get hollered at by people in back of me: "Aren't you the girl from Top Chef?" ("Why yes, I am. Now can I put my clothes back on?") The best moment so far though was when I went to use a restroom and the girl in front of me on line started talking to me about how she "loves Top Chef” and how she “hopes [I] win,” to which I replied, Thanks. And then we proceeded to pee in the stalls next to each other (can you say awkward?).

And lastly, the perks: Hmm. There are less than one would think! I'm still tired. I still walk to work every day. I still sit coach on an airplane (and usually the darn middle seat). I still have to wait on line for the movies. I still have to make reservations at restaurants. I'm still the same girl I always was, it's just that now people know who I am.